Inflatable fire truck purchase blasted by UK fire union

The custom-made inflatable is designed to teach children about fire prevention and safety

The Manchester Evening News

CHESHIRE, England — Fire chiefs in Cheshire have spent £26,000 — about $40,000 — on an inflatable bouncy engine to teach children about safety.

A row has now broken out after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) slated the decision saying the money would be better used on front line services at a time when budgets and staffing levels are being cut back.

Photo Cheshire Fire & Rescue

Photo Cheshire Fire & Rescue

But the service insists that the custom-made inflatable, bought in 2009, is a worthwhile investment.

Evan Morris, head of community safety for Cheshire, said: This is about educating young people on how to survive fires.

It is not a toy. It has a bouncy castle construction, but is used to educate on fire and road traffic safety.

We flood it with synthetic smoke and children learn how to crawl under it. There is also a section where children learn about road safety.

This was a considerable investment and we have made a firm business case for it. I couldn't spend money on resources that aren't very effective.

The 30ft by 12ft inflatable has been used 37 times since it was bought in June 2009.

It costs around £150 ($230) each time it is used, and is transported to shows and events in a transit van leased for about £12,000 ($18,700) over five years.

But Dave Williams, FBU secretary for Cheshire, says it is a waste of money at a time when the brigade is considering plans to halve staffing levels and lengthen some shifts up to 84 hours. He said: In the current situation it does seem an extortionate amount to pay for what is basically a big blow-up tent, which we already have.

We've had tents for years that we take out to schools to demonstrate how to escape from a building.

I think where money is going deserves far greater scrutiny.

One firefighter, who asked not to be named, agreed, saying: This is a complete waste of taxpayers' money and a firefighter's wages for a year.

We are supposed to be looking after the people of Cheshire and are just spending money willy nilly.

But safety officer Mr Morris said there needed to be a balance between the firefighting service and improving fire prevention.

He added: This is about educating a safer generation for the future because people today are more aware of risk than their parents may be.

It's inflatable and the attractive exterior makes children want to learn.

Copyright 2011 Manchester Evening News
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